Fifty years ago, one of my predecessors sat concentrating at the keyboard of an old Royal manual typewriter, banging out what would become the first of thousands of stories written about the U.S. pork industry.

National Hog Farmer is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The first edition — Volume 1, Number 1 — was actually published in February 1956, in Grundy Center, IA.

The founders of National Hog Farmer began formalizing their plans for a hog magazine in the waning months of 1955. The hog market had taken a nosedive and key industry players felt it was time to get organized.

Post-World War II efforts to reshape modern-day hogs were progressing, but consumers and retailers didn't seem to notice. Hog farmers in several states organized pork promotional programs, but lacking a national, coordinating body, their efforts struggled. Interest in a national, self-help funding program began to surface.

As the “meat-type” hog took on a new shape, so too did the means of raising them. New housing systems were tested. Swine disease control and feeding methods gained attention.

The industry lacked a communications conduit to the nation's hog farmers. Then-secretary of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Wilbur Plager, approached the publisher of the Farm Bureau Spokesman with the idea of publishing a newsletter exclusively for pork producers. Plager's persuasive skills won the day and soon the task of publishing the first edition of National Hog Farmer Newsletter was underway. The eight-page, tabloid-sized newsletter was distributed to leaders of state and local associations affiliated with the National Swine Growers Council (the predecessor to the National Pork Producers Council), and contained the organization's “first annual progress report to the industry.”

Plager endorsed the new publication and noted: “Of all the important segments in agriculture, the swine industry has been the most poorly organized. A check-off of 5¢ per pig could turn loose a new and better era in the swine industry. Swine producers will have to help sell this program to help themselves — no one else is going to do it for them, that we know.”

By the second edition, circulation of the fledgling hog magazine grew from a mere 1,600 to 4,000; by April, circulation had climbed to 20,000. Individual subscriptions were $1 per year.

The National Hog Farmer was launched with the purpose of covering the news of the pork industry and to serve as a vehicle to exchange information amongst pork producers and the allied industry that supports them. That purpose and mission continues today.

Will You Help Us Celebrate?

It is in that spirit of industry support and cooperation that we ask for your help today. The focus of our celebration is planned for the May 15, 2005 “Commemorative Issue,” which will look back at key people and events that shaped the pork industry over the past 50 years.

We all know a successful, dynamic industry requires strong leadership, commitment and vision. People are the key, and we want to recognize those who have contributed so much during the past five decades. Some will have served in organizational leadership roles. Others devoted their professional and/or academic careers to solving an industry problem, beating a formidable disease or developing a technological breakthrough.

That's where we need your help. We have developed a nomination form and a list of categories to stimulate nominations across a broad array of industry contributions. For example, what geneticist, nutritionist, or swine veterinarian has made a major contribution to the pork industry? As a commercial pork producer, do you have a mentor, a peer, or a relative who held a leadership role in a pork industry organization and left it better for his/her presence?

We'll be glad to send you a nomination form with all the details. Just call us at 800-722-5334 and ask for me, or my assistant, Marilyn Anderson. Or, drop me an e-mail (address above). The nomination forms are also posted on our Web site:

For the Fun of It

We're also compiling a travelogue of cool and amazing places, historically important sites and particularly-important-to-pig-people events across the U.S. “pigdom.” If you have a spot on the U.S. map that you think deserves recognition, send us the location and a few details about why it is “pig special” and we'll consider it for our Pork-Tour-A-Rama map.

Examples would include the remarkable and amazing SPAM museum in Austin, MN, the “Big Pig Jig” pork barbeque festival in Vienna, GA, and Henry County, IL, the “Pasture Farrowing Hog Capital of the World.”

We look forward to celebrating our Golden Anniversary with the industry in 2005.